Other people’s bikes & guide dogs

I’m not going to lie. One of the great pleasures of being a cycling journalist is getting paid to ride other people’s bikes. Sure, there’s always a bit of mild anxiety about the ramifications of crashing them (something I’ve unfortunately done twice), but generally speaking it’s a pretty awesome privilege and one you never take for granted. Most of the review bikes that arrive on my doorstep tend to hover around that $4,000-$6,000 sweet spot which makes complete sense given this represents the biggest bulge in the road bike market. But every now and then you get to ride something truly special.

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Four years ago, I was fortunate enough to review a hand-made titanium masterpiece from the British bike builder, Enigma. With an RRP of around $11,000 it was hand-delivered to my home by the distributor himself, and at the time it was the most expensive road bike I’d ever ridden. However just recently the bar was raised even higher when I took temporary possession of a $13,000+ masterpiece from a NZ bike brand called Chapter2. Beautiful to look at and a pleasure to ride, it had all the bells, all the whistles and was amazing in pretty much every way imaginable – especially considering I’ll never have remotely enough coin to buy it myself. I had a lot of fun on that thing and you can read all about it in the next issue of Bicycling Australia.

One day while I was riding this incredible Kiwi steed, an envious mate asked me a simple question: “How do you ever give these bikes back?” Apart from the obvious answer, “I’ll lose my job and possibly go to jail for theft if I don’t”, it got me thinking about other people who experience fleeting ‘ownership’ of remarkable possessions. I landed at…guide dogs. You see, being a bike reviewer is a lot like being a foster family for guide dog puppies. You need to love, care and enjoy them as much as possible while they’re with you. But you can never forget they’re not actually yours. Before long they have to go back from whence they came, so you can’t get too attached.

Now sometimes the experience isn’t actually such a great one. In those instances you’re quite happy to see them go (for example, I once reviewed an over-priced overweight frame from a Spanish brand that was, frankly, a complete ‘dog’, I hated it). But more often than not they’re awesome. Saying goodbye in such instances is tricky, sure. Thankfully the sadness of each departure is usually quickly replaced by the arrival of the next bike.

Talk about a first world problem, heh?

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